Taking your dog for a walk is great, but going for a hike with him is even better. Trail walking is an excellent opportunity for you to get some exercise and your pooch will love it, too. Before the two of go hiking, however, there are a few things you should do to prepare your dog.
Before You Go Hiking
Before taking your pup into nature, you need to make sure that he is up to the challenge. Below you will find several tips for getting your dog ready to hit that open trail:
- Check with Your Vet – Before you subject your dog to vigorous exercise, you should make sure that he is healthy enough for it. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you if your dog is in good enough shape for hiking. Even if he cannot handle steep hills or rough terrain, he might still be able to handle a leisurely stroll on a paved trail. One thing to be especially careful of is hiking with puppies – puppies should not be subjected to vigorous exercise until they are full grown because it might damage their developing bones and joints.
- Ask Around About Trails – Once you have determined that your pet is healthy enough for a hike, you need to decide where to go. If you have any outdoorsy friends, ask them which hiking trails they like and which ones might be good for dogs. Make sure that pooches are not prohibited in whichever area you plan to go hiking and follow all rules and restrictions.
- Check on the Internet – If you do not have anyone to ask about good hiking locations, do a little research on the internet. You may even be able to find a smartphone app that will help you find a good hiking trail. Keep in mind that not all of these websites and apps will have information specifically about hiking with your dog, so you will have to use your own judgment.
Canine Hiking Essentials
- The key to an enjoyable hike with your dog is to be prepared. Even if the weather is cool, the challenge of mountaineering or even walking can be taxing for your dog; carry plenty of water with you as well as a collapsible drinking bowl.
- Just as you may want to enjoy a snack at a resting point along the trail, your dog may appreciate some energizing treats or biscuits.
- What comes in must go out though, so please remember to take poop bags with you and a waste carrier to keep them in, as many hiking areas are free of trashcans.
- If your dog has sensitive paws, or you simply want to protect them from scrapes and cuts, you might want to consider dog booties, though not all dogs like them.
- You should always keep your furry companion on the leash while hiking, but make sure that his collar carries his ID tag and license just in case the two of you are separated.
Tips for Trail Etiquette
Once you and your pup are ready to hit the trail, there are a few things you should do to ensure that you follow good trail etiquette.
- Always Use the Leash - Make sure you can keep your dog under control at all times, especially when you come across other dogs and hikers. If your dog does not walk well on a leash or does not have basic obedience training, you should not take him hiking. A six-foot leash is a good idea, even on off-leash trials, as dogs do not respond well to verbal commands in such a stimulating environment, and a leash could even go so far as protecting your inquisitive dog from dangerous creatures such as snakes and scorpions.
- Be Conscious of Others - It is easy to forget that, although you love your pooch’s affectionate streak, not every stranger wants to be licked and jumped on by your dog, so try and hold him back as other hikers pass. It is also imperative that you clean up after your dog. If you do not, it is not only rude to other trail users but it also could spread disease.
- Don’t let Fido Eat the Flowers or Squirrels - Hiking trails and the great outdoors are home to a variety of small animals. You and your dog are visitors there, so it is simple courtesy to prevent your dog from chasing your hosts. In addition, the plants are there for everyone to enjoy and, very importantly, some could be poisonous to your dog, so please do not let him eat them, dig them up or disturb them. Ponds and pools of stagnant water may also breed bacteria and parasites that could make your dog very ill. If you notice him getting tired or panting more than usual, stop and pour some of the fresh water you have packed into a bowl for him. Dogs can easily suffer overheating or dehydration on a hike, so pay close attention to your pup’s behavior.
- Don’t Bite off More than You Can Chew - If you have more than one dog or are an aspiring dog walker, please know your limits. Handling more than one dog can be challenging enough without all the new sights, sounds and smells that will grab their attention on a hike. If one of the dogs in your care gets hurt or tired, or you run into strange dogs on the trail, you may struggle to maintain control of the situation.
Hiking is a great way to get a little exercise and to spend some quality time with your pup. Make the above preparations before embarking on your walking adventure to ensure your pooch’s safety and well-being.